Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day Fifty Four

I spent the whole day at the barn in Hernando Mississippi today. Tacked up four horses (Roo, Rose, Starbucks, and Boomer) for Ila, took Wally, the big grey Percheron for a trail ride, had the best lesson ever (got almost every canter I asked for and turned some very round, very lovely 10 meter circles), then I was lucky enough to go for yet another trail ride with a few other gals and their horses. We wandered and talked and told stories and laughed. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and 55 degrees or so. My face is still reminding me that the sun shone directly on it for a prolonged period of time. I feel tired, windswept, refreshed, and relaxed all at once. Virginia Nuckolis is down from Bucyrus, Mo and we're planning on watching movies and laughing a lot for this evening's entertainment. Jake is continuing to paint space ships on found paintings. He's hovering over a large canvas of running horses painted by an artist named Albo and muttering "Its too late to be afraid.". Tomorrow brings another day of working silver, preparing waxes, and hopefully a lesson in forging silver from Mr. Jim Masterson as well. Its a wonderful life!
Here's a quick video of Jake painting / hovering.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day Fifty Three

Today i got a C plus in silver casting. Three out of four molds produced quality castings. I'll take it and hope for better scores next time. During today's work, chasing waxes and spruing them up for the next go round, I started to think about my original intentions of producing work that was inspired by the shapes created when water moves. I started to think about how the river had actually inspired me and it hasn't been direct. Although I have made some very nice pieces inspired by water movement and the river, my heart belongs to the horses. I've tried to dismiss the horses as something made for fun or art with a small a instead of a capital A, but now I find that my heart's work lies within the tiny horses. The horses are the true work and the river pieces are forced. I'm ok with that. I'm hoping my audience will be too.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Fifty Two

Its a late one, but I made it. Today started with a visit from the students of Coro Lake Elementary. I gave three blacksmithing demonstrations, making a very cool hook each time. I was glad to see that the students were excited to learn and enjoyed their tour of the museum, the library, the smithy and the foundry. Some of the kids remembered me and it was nice to get a hug from some of them. I just love to teach and I certainly relish the chance to share my love of all things metal. The rest of the day consisted of  pouring investment ( a plaster like substance use to make the heat resistant molds needed for casting objects in silver) and weighing silver in preparation for tomorrow's sterling silver pour. At the end of the day tomorrow I will have many tiny silver horses. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Fifty One

Today marks my fortieth birthday. I spent the morning demonstrating blacksmithing to the 4, 5, and 6 grades of Denver Elementary. Miss Judy gave them instructions to wish me a happy birthday and one class even sang the happy birthday song to me. This is the best birthday thus far!
Last night Kevin Burge, Joel Parsons and Leila Hamden joined me at The Crystal Palace Skating Rink on south third street for a fantastic evening of roller skating. The Crystal Palace is the best skating rink I've ever been to, its huge, with a high polish wood floor, at least 10 disco balls, and neon strung everywhere. It was adult night, there must have been 200 people there! The DJ was amazing and thrilled us with a vast array of R&B, Soul, and Old School Funk. I have never seen so many people enjoying roller skating that much! Afterwards, Joel, Kevin, and I went to Ernestine and Hazel's for Soul Burgers.

My dates for skating in front of the Taj Mahal of roller skating:

A quick video I shot during our evening of thrill seeking on wheels:

Thanks so much to everyone for showing their love and appreciation on my birthday. I feel truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day Fifty

Day Forty Nine will forever be the day I didn't blog, I broke my chain of daily blogging, I reneged on my pledge. I'm ok with that. Day Forty Nine was a busy hectic and sometimes sad and lonely day. It began to stretch on into the evening and just when I was getting primed to toil all evening without having a rest for fun, Kevin and I decided to blow off some steam with bubbly gin drinks and shrimp salad at The Cove. The Blog police have to yet come and find me, but if i go missing, you'll know what's happened. Below, you'll see a picture of my bench, just as I left it at around 7pm last night. Its happening, its still got to happen one piece at a time and at my very best each time, so it does move slow, but its happening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day Forty Eight

This is the day we lost Charlie. Charlie McKinney, gifted Blacksmith, talented Designer, beloved Father, Husband, and Friend to almost everyone, crossed over the river today. Its hard to think about much else. Here's some information about the man we will all miss sorely.

Charlie McKinney

My fascination with hot metal began in early childhood in the Missouri Ozarks where my family and neighbors never hesitated to make whatever they needed from whatever they had. This journey continued from the basic metalwork classes in high school, through the St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant where I would handle over thirty tons of hot forged steel by hand each day, on to Memphis, TN where I was employed in the metal fabrication and industrial maintenance industry. While in Memphis I met Jim Wallace at the newly formed and barely staffed National Ornamental Metals Museum where I helped fabricate the structural steel for their new Smithy. Staff member Sam Moss invited me to join him at his forge, and under his and Wally's tutelage I began the transition from steelworker to blacksmith. I was also able to work along side what are undoubtedly the best blacksmiths in the world today, and most of the work that I do is a directly influenced by those men and women.
In the mid 1980's I had decided to begin blacksmithing full time and began making furniture, railings and various accessories for interior decorators and assisting in the larger projects of the Museum.
It was on the grounds of the Metals Museum that I met Marian, and on the same grounds we joined in marriage and business. After our marriage, I served as president of the Riverbluff Forge Council for two years and Marian finished her Masters of Fine Arts Degree. We then decided to move our business to a more peaceful clime, and in 2000 we moved to Bucyrus, MO and now reside on property that my Great Grandfather homesteaded in the mid 1800's.
The return to this area has also led to a different body of work for us. Our studios are nestled in the forest area of the Ozarks with very abundant wildflowers and native trees. Using the traditional blacksmithing techniques we have begun replicating nature in steel. Almost all of our work now includes some influence of our environment and brings the beauty of nature into the presence of the owner.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Forty Seven

Nothing like a little Hawaiian Gospel Music on the volunteer radio station at 6:30 am to start the day! Mom and John have returned home and I have only five weeks left to produce produce produce! Tomorrow brings a lesson in silver soldering and vulcanized rubber molds. Once I get the new memory card for my camera, I'll start posting pictures again. There's an undercurrent of urgency that I am trying to stave off, but it seems time is flying and there's so much left to do! I almost managed to talk myself into not posting a blog entry today because there's not much to say except "Full steam ahead!" with all possible energy and enthusiasm. Here's a few pictures taken by my Mother of the front gates of the Metal Museum. The gates were designed by Sir Richard Quinnell, blacksmith to the Queen of England and fabricated by numerous blacksmiths from all around the world.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day Forty Six

A full night's rest, a day of sunshine and great conversations with wonderful people. Today is a wonderful day. Life is good!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his haul, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day Forty Five

Today we visited the National Civil Rights Museum. It is located at The Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I spent the morning surrounded by throngs of school children, reading about the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The Museum is a must see in order to understand the incredible amount of bravery and sacrifice it took on the parts of so many people to secure equal treatment. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum's website by clicking here:

If you'd like to help fight racism, there's a few great organizations to get in touch with:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Forty Four

What do you get when you have a variety of friends from different walks of life? Ostrich eggs for breakfast!

Once we figured out how to open it, (with a dremel tool), we scrambled it up and fed five people.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day Forty Three

Big Bummer! We arrived at the Graceland parking lot and were informed by the attendant that the mansion was closed for the day, but we were free to explore the mediation gardens and the gift shop. Needless to say, we did not choose to tour Graceland.
We managed to feel our way around and found the Stax Museum. It was an amazing, eye opening experience! Check out the Stax Museum online at During the tour, I discovered a new favorite artist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, she was a pioneering gospel singer, songwriter and recording artist who attained great popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock and roll accompaniment. She became the first great recording star of gospel music in the late 1930s and also became known as the "original soul sister" of recorded music.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day Forty Two

I have been visiting Memphis on a yearly basis for over 6 years. The Metal Museum has served as enough engagement that I have not yet had the inkling to visit any of the many local points of interest. Well, today is the day! Mom, John and I are going to Graceland!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day Forty One

Today is another blustery, snowy, icy day. My Mother and her husband John are here for a visit and I've had a grand time getting lost in Memphis while showing them around. Its great to discover this city, even if its freakishly cold and a little too much like Michigan right now. We toured the east side of Memphis, admiring the houses of the wealthy. This afternoon we've been enjoying the warmth and comfort of the duplex on the Museum grounds, cooking, cleaning and watching movies. An altogether un-newsworthy but wonderful day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day Forty

I think we need one of these in Kalamazoo. This is the sign for Joe's, a liquor store in Midtown.

And since today is Video day, here's a little forging vid I shot a few weeks ago.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day Thirty Nine

Today Wally is on campus to teach a beginning blacksmithing class. Virginia Nuckolis is down from Bucyrus Mo to take the class and keep us company. She brought fresh "Girlfriend" eggs with her. The Metal Museum Board of Directors meets in the library this morning. There are a lot of donuts to help sweeten the day. I will be in the Con Lab working fervently on the results of the my silver pour which occurred yesterday. I will only eat one donut. I will only eat one donut. I will only eat one donut (per hour). There are tiny silver horses in existence and they are lovely. I should have them ready to photograph by this afternoon.

The finished Horse Head Story Board, ready to inspire SmartShop students.

What I see when I go in to the Con Lab to work on my jewelry scale silver pieces.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day Thirty Eight

Today's blog entry recognizes and pays tribute to Mr. Jim Masterson, a.k.a. Uncle Jimmy, G-Y-M, Mastahsohn, and more. Jim Masterson received his Master of Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1994.  He began working at the Metal Museum in 2000, and is currently the Shop Foreman. Jim is patient, helpful, most always cheerful, has the funniest most distinct and commonly occurring laugh. Jim is a Master Blacksmith and possesses amazing abilities in both design and fabrication of ornamental metal. Jim probably knows a little about everything and a lot about anything having to do with metal. Since arriving here and being privy to his wonderful self, I wonder how I might ever be able to live without him. Jim Masterson is truly a work of art!
Jim's Shoes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day Thirty Seven

If you'll remember, back around Day Fifteen or so, I went with Judy Davis and Mary Catherine Floyd to Coro Lake Elementary and taught the 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes how to make patterns for cast aluminum tiles. In the last few days, Jeannie Tomlinson Saltmarsh and I have been ramming them up (making molds from oil sand) and casting them. Here are some of the result of our labor. Only 100  more tiles to go.
This project is designed as supplementary arts learning in public schools. I am hoping to revamp SmartShop's Foundry program and take this project to our public schools, with the designs for the patterns being inspired by and based on the scientific concepts that the students are studying. Cool huh? Best part? This is all 100% recycled Aluminum. Next best part? The tiles will be assembled into a 3 dimensional quilt and installed permanently at the school. Wow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day Thirty Six

Photo: Trying on hats at the Germantown TJ Maxx.. gotta make time for girl time! The overalls are a nice contrast...

Today is the day that Richard Prillaman pays us a visit and teaches me how to invest my wax sculptures and pour them in precious metal. Today! I'm very excited to see this next stage of creation, because those little waxes have been sitting on my worktable for quite some time. It also seems like I've been doing a lot of work, but not getting things finished. Today is the day of culmination! After today, it won't be long until there are many little river pendants and many tiny horses to chase and tool. I'll be sending my work back home just as soon as its finished in preparation for my show at SmartShop in April. ONWARD!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day Thirty Five

The results of yesterday's time at the forge. After lolling around a bit and questioning the level of my dedication, I finally made it out to the smithy and found something to get excited about. Jake Brown taught me how to forge a horse head. He had seen it done many years ago as a youngster and it has always stuck with him. I was thrilled to learn of course, and had all kinds of fun trying to forge the perfect horse. These were made with 1/2" square bar. I will turn them into fire tools today. 
"How To Forge a Horse Head in 7 East Steps"
Just to make sure I had earned my food for the day, I went ahead and made a story board. This shows step by step how to forge a horse head. See? its easy!

"How NOT to Forge a Horse Head in a Myriad of Steps"
These are the ones that didn't make it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day Thirty Four..

Its another snowy day here in Memphis. We're expecting another 3-4 inches of snow/sleet which will cripple this town for days. The schools are closed again, and there's hardly any traffic on the bridge. Jake and I have cleaned the house, made lunch, and spent way too much time on the internet. Its a sleepy day in general, which only the appearance of the sun can cure. I'm happy the shop is only a few steps away and after the wood burning stove has had a chance to heat things up and take the frost off the anvils, I'll head out to work. There's much to do and the clock is ticking!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day Thirty Three

Phew! almost didn't make my daily blog entry. We've been going hard since 8:30 am. Here's some pictures from our iron pour. WAAAYYY too much fun today! Thanks for all the fun Mr. Rogers. The results of all of our hard work need to be tooled before they can be shown, but rest assured, you'll see!

And from our Bronze pour (also today):

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day Thirty Two.

Meet Memphis Local Celebrity and All Around Super Strange Fella'  Prince Mongo.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day Thirty One...

Photo: Detail from FLOW.

Word has it my application for a KADI (Kalamazoo Artist Development Initiative) grant from The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo has been approved. I'd applied for partial support of my Artist Residency here at The Metal Museum. (Remember Day Eleven?). Now I can purchase some materials and resume my intensive learning all of the subtle nuances of both Fine and Sterling Silver.

Thanks Arts Council! Without your support this project would not be able to fulfill its potential!

Would you like to know more about The Wondrous and Fantastic Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo?

Click here:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day Thirty

Whew! I have completed my first thirty days here at the museum and what a pleasure its been. I do feel like I've only just gotten started and now, with less than two months to go, I need to get cranking! This weekend I will assist Bob Rogers in teaching the Introduction to Sand Casting class and we'll pour bronze and hopefully be able (weather permitting) to fire up the cupola and pour some cast iron. This will be good experience for me, as we have all we need to conduct foundry classes at SmartShop, but up until now, I just haven't had the time to gain the expertise to run the equipment safely and teach at the same time. I like working with Bob, he's so funny. He's an engineer who swears up and down he's not an artist, but he is an artist! An artist in denial! Bob holds a wealth of knowledge about the foundry and all of its sometimes tedious and sometimes dangerous processes.
Last night was Moiler night. Its a time when volunteers are invited to come to the museum and help stage the next exhibition. Funny name huh? Moiler comes from the root MOIL which means to toil or drudge. I think its great how the museum has turned drudgery into a party. We painted the upstairs gallery walls, and most of the pedestals. I finished my moiling by scrubbing all of the paint out of the sink in the gallery kitchen. It was a fun night with pizza and beer and we even got to sing a few songs from The Sound of Music,.. "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day Twenty Nine

Why is Memphis so great? Here's what Rufus Thomas had to say!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day Twenty Eight

This may look easy, but I can guarantee you its very difficult. For me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day Twenty Seven

This is the new shape.
What does it remind you of?